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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               5!

dictum of Chinese political philosophy and formula for solving
all Chinese party differences by saying "When there is rice, let
everybody share it" President Li was a grim realist without
knowing it, and he spoke wiser than he knew when he was thus
giving an economic interpretation of current Chinese history.
The economic interpretation of history is not new to the
Chinese people, nor is the biologic interpretation of human
life of the iSmile Zola school. With Zola, it is an intellectual
fad, but with us it is a matter of national consciousness. In
China one does not have to learn to become a realist: here one
is born a realist. President Li Ytianhung was never noted for
power of cerebration, but, as a Chinese, he instinctively felt
that all political problems are not, and should not be, anything
but problems of the rice-bowl. As a Chinese, he gave thus the
profoundest explanation of Chinese politics of which I know.
This nonchalant and materialistic attitude is based on the
very shrewd view of life to which only old people and old
nations can attain. It would be futile for young men under
thirty to understand it, as it is futile for young nations of the
West to try to appreciate it. Perhaps it was no mere accident
that the very name of Laotse, the author of Taotehking^ the
Bible of Taoism, means an "old man."1 Someone has said
that every man past forty is a crook. Anyway, it is undeniable
that the older we grow, the more shameless we become. Young
girls of twenty seldom marry for money; women of forty seldom
marry for anything elseó"security" is perhaps the word they
call it. It is by no mere whim that, in Greek mythology, young
Icarus was made to fly too high until the wax of his wings
melted and he fell into the sea, while Daedalus, the old father,
flew low, but flew safely home. When a man grows old, he
develops a genius for flying low, and idealism is tempered
with cool, level-headed common sense, as well as with a sense
for dollars and pennies. Realism is, then, characteristic of
old age, as idealism is characteristic of youth. When a man
is past forty and does not become a crook, he is either feeble-
minded or a genius. To the latter class belong the "big children,"

1 This old man, around the sixth century B.C., was riding a donkey through
the Hankukuan Pass, and saying good-bye to the world, when he was begged to
leave the five thousand words of Taotehking for the enlightenment of his
fellow-men.